From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
Barely 24 hours after the Federal Government blamed recession for its inability to pay match bonuses of the victorious Super Falcons at the just concluded African Women Championship, the Sports Minister Solomon Dalung has said they were never expected to win the trophy.
The Super Falcons had staged a sit-in protest at their hotel to express their disappointment and vowed not to release the trophy to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), until their bonuses are paid.
When confronted by State House correspondents to react to the embarrassing development, Dalung admitted that although the team won the trophy for a record eighth time, that their victory was not expected.
According to him, if the NFF was confident of yet another victory in the tournament that held in Cameroon, it would have applied for and processed the funds for their bonuses early enough to avoid the national embarrassment.
The Minister who described the development as unfortunate, pointed out that government needed to perform a ‘surgery’ on the sports sector to forestall a repeat in the future.
Dalung said, “It is unfortunate that we are celebrating victory of the Super Falcons amidst some bitter feelings among the players because of some administrative lapses that were not managed properly.
“If the situation was explained to these girls I don’t think the situation would have gotten to this level. But we are working round the clock to ensure that what belongs to them legitimately is given to them. This has to do with government process.”
“It is already established in sports tradition, when you win this is what you are entitled to. The situation is highly unfortunate and I don’t like it. These girls have given confidence to women who want to embrace sports but this will go a long way in killing this laudable achievement. It is unfortunate but we will make sure the right thing is done.”
Meanwhile the Minister of Youth and Sports has reassured the African champions that they will receive all their entitlements.
The Minister made the promise in company of the NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi when he met with the players and officials at their Agura Hotel, Abuja on Thursday.
“I had to make time out to meet with you ladies again after receiving you on arrival in Lagos. In the past few days I have heard so much about the team’s grievances, challenges and issues here and there.
“I have also discussed with the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation but I felt it is necessary for me to come and sit to discuss with you in order for us to understand ourselves better. The issues with the team date back to the All-Africa Games, bothering on allowances and bonuses. We are also aware that the coaches are also being owed.
“The point I want to make clear is that for this competition which this team have participated in and won, we are indeed overwhelmed by the performance of the team.”
The Minister urged the players and officials to be patient with the Government so that their laudable achievement can be appreciated: “Personally, I don’t want this achievement to be rubbished with whatever challenges we are facing because one thing that will stand to the end is our achievements.”
Dalung concluded by promising the Falcons that the process to sort out their money is in process, and it will be sorted out eventually: “But one thing I want you all to know is that there are procedures for getting such monies from the Federal Government. It is not like an ATM that you will just go to and bring out cash. Government has processes on how things are done. We are still processing and pursuing the entitlements of the team.”